I recently read a thought provoking article published in The Guardian entitled ‘How do you finish a phd when you don’t feel you belong at university?’. In the article the author shares her experiences as a working class student within an academic system within which she has felt at times dis-empowered and within which she has struggled to feel that she ‘fits’.
The author talks about her positive experience of being supported by her University counselling service but also writes,
‘But I feel more could be done to seek out those students who feel unable to ask for help. Help should not have to be demanded, it should be offered in subtle and various ways to every student who walks through the university’s doors’.
I believe that the courage it takes for individuals to approach counselling services and to ask for help should not be underestimated. I speak to many clients for whom the process of reaching out for support has been an excruciating one. This seems to be amplified where people have sought help previously and have not received it.
It seems valuable therefore to consider the ways in which counselling services within Universities and other Higher Education establishments can be proactive in offering help in ‘subtle and various ways’. How can we offer help in a way which requires less courage on behalf of the student? How can we lessen the burden on those who may struggle the most to reach out?
It seems to me that proactively offering wellbeing sessions to all students as part of the curriculum of their studies – and equipping academic, administrative and pastoral staff with an increased amount of knowledge and awareness around mental health, wellbeing and the services available would fit within this idea of ‘subtle’ and ‘various’. This is something I am passionate about as a counsellor and a trainer and am excited to be taking forward with a local University.
Please do get in touch if this is something you feel that I could help you with or if you have any thoughts on this piece.